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Thursday, June 19, 2003

JB

"Moral Clarity" Revisited-- The Case of Afghanistan

A report from the Council on Foreign Relations and the Asia Society warns that the U.S. is on the brink of losing the peace in Afghanistan due to its neglect of conditions after the overthrow of the Taliban.

"Unless the situation improves, Afghanistan risks sliding back into the anarchy and warlordism that prevailed in the 1990s and helped give rise to the Taliban," [the report] said, referring to the puritanical Islamic group that governed the country of 28 million from 1996 until the 2001 US-led war. . . .

The report's findings were echoed by Pakistan's President, Pervez Musharraf, who called for a huge expansion of the international force in Afghanistan to fill the growing vacuum outside Kabul.

General Musharraf estimated that the force needed to be increased from 14,000 soldiers - almost all of whom are in Kabul - to between 40,000 and 45,000. . . .

There are 5000 troops in Afghanistan under the United Nations banner and 9000 US troops. The British Government has rejected a request from Mr Karzai for more troops.

Before overthrowing the Taliban for harbouring the al-Qaeda network, accused of masterminding the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the US said it would try to help rebuild the nation quickly. . . .

One of the lead authors, Frank Wisner, a former U.S. ambassador to India, said U.S. credibility was on the line and if Washington "did not get it right in Afghanistan it will be a lot harder to convince others to work with us to get it right in Iraq."


Our inability to live up to our promises in Afghanistan should give anyone pause. As Wisner points out, it casts doubt on our bona fides in Iraq. In the alternative, it suggests that the Administration has a particularly short attention span when it comes to its foreign policy committments. It is eager to use force but is unwilling to accept the inevitable consequences of using force-- that is, devoting itself to the expensive, time consuming and altogether less glorious task of cleaning up the mess it creates.

That lack of follow through has serious consequences for the War on Terrorism. If the Bush Administration does not work hard to rebuild Afghanistan (and Iraq), it will not have made our country more secure. Quite the contrary, nothing could set the peoples of the Muslim world more firmly against the United States than a practice of repeatedly invading Muslim states and leaving them in ruins.

One can see lots of things in the Administration's policies toward Afghanistan. I am afraid that moral clarity is not one of them.


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